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by: Rabbi Dan S. Wiko PhD
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On Thursday, September 10, 2009 I was asked the following question:

I am writing with a question which may be relevant for Gantseh Megillah readers:
I currently consider myself a Modern Orthodox Jew and as such I refrain from driving on Shabbat. The question I would like to ask is: What would contemporary Jewish Law say (all the way from Modern Orthodox to Reform, Renewal etc.) if the only way to participate in the community and observe the Sabbath is to operate a vehicle?

Let's say the alternative would be staying home by yourself and being sad and lonely--which is contrary to the Shabbos spirit. And let's say one finds it difficult to observe Shabbos properly alone and the only way to do proper observances is to drive to synagogue or to a friend's house for a meal etc. What is your opinion on this question and what do you think contemporary Halakha would say?
Thank you for your time and consideration.


This was my response:

Shalom Nathan,

You pose a very interesting and often asked question. Basically, the response according to Halakha, it is not permitted to operate a vehicle on Shabbos for a number of reasons. One being that you are causing a spark and, secondly, you are causing something on wheels to move.

There are a number of, otherwise observant people, who believe that it is "ok" to drive to and from shul as long as there are no deviations from the drive. You could not stop at a friend's house for lunch unless it is directly on your route home. There is yet another opinion that says "if you're going to drive anyway, drive to shul." Of course, these opinions are not halakhacally accurate or valid. I live in a small community in which people drive 15-20 miles to come to an Orthodox Shabbat service and they are all welcome and included in the service. So............

Orthodox = no driving under any circumstances (except pikuakh nefesh-in case of illness. It is expected that, even the rabbi, calls 911 if someone becomes ill on Shabbat while in shul.
Conservadox = not acceptable but, also, not frowned upon.
Conservative = not acceptable but, usually, expected to happen.
Reform = acceptable and most often the norm.
Reconstructionist = has so many opinions as a movement that it depends on the congregation. Some compare it to Humanism and less a "religious practice."

My opinion.........Better to drive to shul and, even, join friends for lunch, than to miss out on the spirit of Shabbos.

Rabbi Dan

If you have questions about a personal matter, or jewish practices and customs, you can submit them to me by e-mail. I answer all queries directly, or through this column, when the question is informative to our community.

Thank you for your kind attention and this opportunity to share with you,
Rabbi Dan S. Wiko
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